An archaeopteryx State Of Mind
When I was working on my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology, I wound up taking classes in ornithology (the study of birds). I had never really had a lot of interest in birds as a kid, and to be perfectly honest, I only chose birds in that moment because of the time the class met. My love of birds grew out of my time in that class and all of my undergrad research would wind up being ornithology based. What I did have an interest in as a kid was dinosaurs and I was to find out in that class just how connected dinosaurs and birds actually were. This is where I first saw pictures and a casting of Archaeopteryx lithographica.
I completely geeked out over it. So much so, that if you have ever been to my home and asked to connect to the wifi, the network you would be accessing is named Archaeopteryx.
Archaeopteryx was first discovered in Germany’s Jurassic Solnhofen Limestone and is estimated at approximately 150 million years old. One of the most interesting aspects of this fossil is just how well preserved it is; thereby making the feathers quite visible. Instead of beak like we see on birds today, Archaeopteryx’s was full of teeth and instead of a keeled sternum where birds massive breast muscles attach for powered flight, Archaeopteryx has a flat sternum. This would limit flight capability and it is thought that Archaeopteryx would have been a glider due to this anatomical feature. It had claws at the ends of its wings similar to those used by the birds we know today which help them steer. The most logical theory is that Archaeopteryx used these claws to climb to heights from which it could glide and hunt its prey which it would grasp with those same claws. This fossil is the link between the flying birds of today and their pre-flight dino-ancestors.
But wait… this is suppose to be a science & faith blog. How does this feathered fossil relate to the Christian faith?
Archaeopteryx, as I mentioned earlier, is the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and the birds we share our world with today. They carry all the evolutionary baggage of the species that came before as well as traces of what they would eventually become. Likewise we carry all the baggage of original sin that affects every aspect of our being along with us through this life’s journey, but we also carry traces of what we will become when we are truly free from sin thanks to being brought into the body of Christ in our Baptism.
Though we may not fly like the majority of birds today and no matter how intriguing it may sound, we are not assigned standard issue angel wings by St. Peter upon our admission through the so-called “pearly gates.” However, the freedom that I can only imagine we will feel when all of our sin, anxieties, and fears no longer afflict our thoughts and actions… well, I like to think that without those weights we will feel like we are flying. In our current lives we may feel like we have to claw and climb and fight to just survive day by day and constantly attempt to take flight knowing that we will only glide down and eventually find ourselves in the dirt. Though, the day is coming when the dirt of sin and death no longer have hold of us and we will rise to amazing heights of being. This recognition is perhaps one of our greatest blessings and something that I personally like to think of as having an Archaeopteryx State of Mind.
Peace and blessings in Christ,